Oct 072019
 
 October 7, 2019  Posted by at 9:30 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,  23 Responses »


Print your own Assange mask

 

The ‘Whistleblower’ Probably Isn’t (Taibbi)
DNC Colluded With Ukraine To Boost Hillary By Harming Trump – Report (DWire)
Bob Woodward: GOP Senators ‘Choking’ On Trump-Ukraine Scandal (WE)
Trump Gives Blessing To Turkish Operation In Northern Syria (AFP)
In Last Minute Call, Erdogan Agrees To Meet Trump Over Syria ‘Safe Zone’ (ZH)
Arise, Commissioner Farage! (Pol.eu)
Brexit Border Talk Stirs Up Bad Memories In Northern Ireland (G.)
An Actual Conspiracy Kept Jeffrey Epstein’s Accomplices out of Prison
Chinese Farmers Raise Mutant Pigs The Size Of Polar Bears (ZH)
Lula’s Prosecutors Request His Release From Prison. He Refuses. (Greenwald)
HSBC Planning To Cut 10,000 More Staff (AFP)

 

 

Not even close.

The ‘Whistleblower’ Probably Isn’t (Taibbi)

Start with the initial headline, in the story the Washington Post “broke” on September 18th: “TRUMP’S COMMUNICATIONS WITH FOREIGN LEADER ARE PART OF WHISTLEBLOWER COMPLAINT THAT SPURRED STANDOFF BETWEEN SPY CHIEF AND CONGRESS, FORMER OFFICIALS SAY”. The unnamed person at the center of this story sure didn’t sound like a whistleblower. Our intelligence community wouldn’t wipe its ass with a real whistleblower. Americans who’ve blown the whistle over serious offenses by the federal government either spend the rest of their lives overseas, like Edward Snowden, end up in jail, like Chelsea Manning, get arrested and ruined financially, like former NSA official Thomas Drake, have their homes raided by FBI like disabled NSA vet William Binney, or get charged with espionage like ex-CIA exposer-of-torture John Kiriakou.


It’s an insult to all of these people, and the suffering they’ve weathered, to frame the ballcarrier in the Beltway’s latest partisan power contest as a whistleblower. I’ve met a lot of whistleblowers, in both the public and private sector. Many end up broke, living in hotels, defamed, (often) divorced, and lucky if they have any kind of job. One I knew got turned down for a waitressing job because her previous employer wouldn’t vouch for her. She had little kids. The common thread in whistleblower stories is loneliness. Typically the employer has direct control over their ability to pursue another job in their profession. Many end up reviled as traitors, thieves, and liars. They often discover after going public that their loved ones have a limited appetite for sharing the ignominy. In virtually all cases, they end up having to start over, both personally and professionally.

Read more …

When will the MSM start publishing about the “DNC-UKRAINE SCANDAL”? The Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine was convicted in Ukraine for interfering in the U.S. presidential election in 2016…

DNC Colluded With Ukraine To Boost Hillary By Harming Trump – Report (DWire)

The Blaze has released an audio recording that they recently obtained that appears to show Artem Sytnyk, Director of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine, admitting that he tried to boost the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton by sabotaging then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign. The connection between the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Ukrainian government was veteran Democratic operative Alexandra Chalupa, “who had worked in the White House Office of Public Liaison during the Clinton administration” and then “went on to work as a staffer, then as a consultant, for Democratic National Committee,” Politico reported.

Chalupa was working directly with the Ukrainian embassy in the United States to raise concerns about Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and, according to Politico, she indicated that the Embassy was working “directly with reporters researching Trump, Manafort and Russia to point them in the right directions.” The Ukrainian embassy political officer who worked at the embassy at the time, Andrii Telizhenko, stated that the Ukrainians “were coordinating an investigation with the Hillary team on Paul Manafort with Alexandra Chalupa” and that “the embassy worked very closely with” Chalupa. The Blaze highlighted an email from WikiLeaks from Chalupa to Louise Miranda at the DNC:

“Hey, a lot coming down the pipe. I spoke to a delegation of 68 investigative journalists from Ukraine last night at the Library of Congress, the Open World Society forum. They put me on the program to speak specifically about Paul Manafort. I invited Michael Isikoff, who I’ve been working with for the past few weeks, and connected him to the Ukrainians. More offline tomorrow, since there was a big Trump component you and Lauren need to be aware of that will hit in the next few weeks. Something I’m working on that you should be aware of.” The Blaze then reported that Sytnyk, who eventually “was tried and convicted in Ukraine for interfering in the U.S. presidential election in 2016,” released a “black ledger” on Manafort during the 2016 presidential election that eventually led to Manafort’s downfall.

Read more …

Republicans drowning in donations.

Bob Woodward: GOP Senators ‘Choking’ On Trump-Ukraine Scandal (WE)

Veteran journalist Bob Woodward said Republican senators are “choking” on President Trump’s Ukraine scandal. At his second appearance in Spokane, Washington, in as many days, the famed Watergate sleuth discussed the precarious situation GOP lawmakers find themselves in as Trump faces controversy for encouraging foreign countries to investigate Joe Biden, a political rival, and his son Hunter. “I know Republican senators, and they are choking on this,” Woodward said on Friday, according to the Spokesman-Review. “Whether they say that’s too much, I don’t know.” Some Republicans in the upper chamber have begun to break ranks after Trump openly encouraged Ukraine and China to investigate the Bidens on Thursday.

Among those who have vented publicly are Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, as well as Texas Rep. Will Hurd in the House. Trump, who claims his overtures were about corruption and not crippling a political opponent in the 2020 election, repeatedly castigated Romney on Saturday, even calling for his impeachment. In a discussion with college students on Thursday, Woodward said the situation for Trump is getting “more serious each day” and predicted that impeachment in the House “is almost certainly going to happen to Trump.” He added, “But then there’s a trial in the Senate.”

On Friday, Woodward acknowledged that Trump encouraging foreign countries to investigate the Biden family is “probably not criminal,” but he nonetheless referred to the controversy as being wide in scope. Speaking of the House impeachment inquiry, Woodward said, “They’re looking through a keyhole, and it’s a panorama.” Woodward also noted how some Republicans in the Senate are seeing an advantage from the Democrats’ impeachment venture. He mentioned that Sen. Lindsey Graham, a former Trump critic who has become one of his most vociferous defenders, is seeing an influx of donations. Woodward said the South Carolina Republican told him he “couldn’t count the money fast enough.”

Read more …

If the US leaves the Kurds alone to be cannon fodder for Erdogan, it will deeply regret it. No-one counting on US support will ever trust it again.

Picked up on Twitter: “…the US persuaded the SDF Kurds to dismantle defensive positions that deterred Turkey, promising security guarantees in exchange. Then once the SDF Kurds became defenseless, Trump gave Erdogan the green light to invade. Hard to imagine a more sinister sequence of events.”

All that said, Trump has been pressing EU countries for a long time to deal with ISIS fighters from their countries. They have refused to even let them come back “home”. That would leave the US to hold them for a long time, and at great cost.

Trump Gives Blessing To Turkish Operation In Northern Syria (AFP)

Donald Trump on Sunday gave his blessing to a Turkish operation targeting Kurdish militants in northern Syria, saying the United States will stand aside as Ankara launches its “long-planned” operation. The move marks a major shift in US policy, and effectively abandons an American ally in the battle against the so-called Islamic State group that took over swathes of Syria. “Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” a White House statement issued late Sunday evening said.


“The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area,” it said, using another acronym for the Islamic State (IS) group. The statement, which followed a call between the US president and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also criticized “France, Germany, and other European nations” for what it said was their refusal to take back citizens detained in northern Syria. “Turkey will now be responsible for all ISIS fighters in the area captured over the past two years in the wake of the defeat of the territorial ‘Caliphate’ by the United States,” the statement said.

Read more …

Erdogan blames the US for not establishing the safe zone.

In Last Minute Call, Erdogan Agrees To Meet Trump Over Syria ‘Safe Zone’ (ZH)

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan again threatened this weekend to initiate a military incursion into northeast Syria, where US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are based (and bolstered locally by small American bases), saying an offensive “both on land and air” would come “as soon as today or tomorrow.” Like many threats of an “imminent” invasion, it appears this proverbial can will be kicked further down the road, as presidents Trump and Erdogan held a “last minute” phone call on Sunday, where it appears the two leaders came to some level of an understanding. They discussed Turkey’s proposed “safe zone” east of the Euphrates in Syria — which Erdogan has long urged a resistant Washington to cooperate militarily on — and though exact details of the exchange weren’t published, they agreed to meet in Washington next month upon Trump’s invitation.

“Erdogan expressed Turkey’s unease with U.S. military and security bureaucracies not doing what is required by the agreement between the two countries, the presidency said, adding that the two men agreed to meet,” Reuters reported of the call. As we reported previously, Turkey’s military is reportedly on high alert, ready to carry out the Turkish president’s orders on short notice, after a longtime military build-up along the border. “We will carry out this operation both on land and air as soon as today or tomorrow,” Erdogan said on Saturday. “We gave all warnings to our interlocutors regarding the east of Euphrates and we have acted with sufficient patience,” the Turkish president added.

He further slammed the prospect of cooperating with the US on a US-Turkey administered safe zone “a fairytale” given Washington’s recalcitrance regarding Syria’s Kurds, the ethnic group’s militias of which Turkey considers “terrorists”. The Kurdish dominated and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has vowed it will treat any invading Turkish soldiers as an act of war. In a statement the SDF said it would “not hesitate to turn any unprovoked (Turkish) attack into an all-out war” to defend its region in northeast Syria, according to Reuters.

Read more …

Given what Dominic Cummings thinks of Farage, hard to see him taking up a job with much publicity.

Arise, Commissioner Farage! (Pol.eu)

London may not be planning to nominate a commissioner to Brussels but if it does, some say there’s only one option: Nigel Farage. Conservative MP Steve Baker told the Telegraph’s Chopper Brexit Podcast that the Brexit Party member of the European Parliament would be the obvious choice to be the U.K.’s European commissioner, if Brexit is delayed and the country is able to nominate one. “I think we should appoint somebody with about twenty years experience … we should appoint somebody who’s incredibly well-known throughout the institutions, somebody who can be absolutely relied upon at all times to support our exit from the European Union,” he said.


“And therefore I unashamedly back Nigel Farage to be our next European commissioner in the event, in the unfortunate event, should it transpire, though I think it unlikely, that we have to remain in.” Baker, who leads the pro-Brexit European Research Group of MPs in the U.K. parliament, said the idea would be “inspired by the film Armageddon,” referring to a 1998 science fiction movie. There is a scene where “they’re trying to save the world, and so what they do is they land on the asteroid, and they put a nuclear weapon in the heart of the asteroid, and Nigel Farage is that nuclear weapon,” Baker said. “I’ve reason to think he might say that he would accept such an offer,” Baker added, while noting that “my sympathy for Nigel Farage, which has not always been at very high levels, has dramatically increased the more that I am demonized.”

Read more …

A traumatized people. Too easily forgotten.

Brexit Border Talk Stirs Up Bad Memories In Northern Ireland (G.)

Remnants of Hurricane Lorenzo unleashed wind and rain from the Atlantic across the area, a rural pocket of County Fermanagh that marks Northern Ireland’s border with the Republic. “Stay back, stay high, stay dry,” advised the authorities, and residents duly hunkered down. Lorenzo passed without major damage. [..] Around Gortmullan, businesses and ordinary people were left wondering if – and where – to seek cover, a dilemma dating from the 2016 referendum result that now thrummed with urgency. “We’re setting up new companies on both sides of the border,” said Liam McCaffrey, CEO of Quinn Industrial Holdings, which supplies building materials.

Customs checks would be bad enough, but Johnson’s apparent plan to give the Stormont assembly a veto over trading arrangements verged on surreal, said McCaffrey. Power sharing in Northern Ireland collapsed in January 2017 and shows little sign of reviving. “The future of how we trade is to be decided every four years by an assembly that hasn’t sat in three years? Bizarre.” Such was the challenge of Storm Boris. Perhaps it was hot air, a plan destined for oblivion to be superseded by who knows what. Or perhaps it was a blast of what is to come in a no-deal crash-out, or a deal negotiated in the next few weeks or after a general election. The uncertainty was head spinning.

[..] The 310-mile border, drawn in 1922 during the partition of Ireland, bristled with military patrols and fortifications during the Troubles. The 1998 Good Friday agreement and the EU’s single market rendered it invisible, helping to seal the peace. [..] A complex web connects the economies on both sides of the border. Trade in goods is worth about £5.2bn. About a third of Northern Ireland’s goods and services exports are sold to the Republic, while about a quarter of its imports come from the south. Downing Street says electronic paperwork and a “very small number” of physical inspections at traders’ premises would limit disruption. Farmers and business leaders dispute that. Some warn of disaster. Diageo, which makes Guinness and Baileys, estimates a hard border could cost it £1.3m, based on an estimate of an hour’s delay for each of the 18,000 beer trucks that traverse the border each year. Smaller businesses with tight margins could face ruin.

Read more …

How could this ever happen? “The parties anticipate that this agreement will not be made part of any public record. If the United States receives a Freedom of Information Act request or any compulsory process commanding the disclosure of the agreement, it will provide notice to Epstein before making that disclosure.”

An Actual Conspiracy Kept Jeffrey Epstein’s Accomplices out of Prison (MJ)

But not limited to: It was just a four-word phrase, a bit of plain contractual verbiage, but even now, more than a decade later, Spencer Kuvin has a hard time expressing just how bizarre it was. “It’s incredibly odd language,” said Kuvin, an attorney in Florida. “I’ve never seen it before in a non-prosecution agreement.” Kuvin and I were talking about the infamous and inexplicable 2007 plea deal offered by then–US Attorney Alexander Acosta, last seen slinking out of the Labor Department’s back door. Kuvin had represented three of Epstein’s victims at the time of the agreement, and Kuvin is still exercised about the deal, in particular its brief immunity clause that continues to protect Epstein’s co-conspirators.

According to a ruling by US District Judge Kenneth Marra in February 2019, “from between about 1999 and 2007, Jeffrey Epstein sexually abused more than 30 minor girls…at his mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, and elsewhere in the United States and overseas.” The ruling goes on to describe a child sex ring: “In addition to his own sexual abuse of the victims, Epstein directed other persons to abuse the girls sexually. Epstein used paid employees to find and bring minor girls to him. Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others.”

But back in 2007, Epstein was charged only with procuring an underage girl for prostitution, having struck an unbelievable sweetheart deal with Acosta. Epstein served 13 months in a Palm Beach County jail, of which six days a week were spent on work release in his high-rise office, a limo chauffeuring him to and from jail. He was also required to register as a sex offender. The deal on its face is incredibly favorable to Epstein. If you look closer, things get even better for him:

“The United States also agrees that it will not institute any criminal charges against any potential co-conspirators of Epstein, including but not limited to Sarah Kellen, Adriana Ross, Lesley Groff, or Nadia Marcinkova.” The four women named had allegedly helped recruit underage girls for Epstein at his direction. But that four-word phrase “but not limited to” gave a free pass to anybody who would have helped Epstein acquire or traffic underage girls for sex. How could the government agree to immunize “any potential co-conspirators” of an alleged serial child rapist? The question is at the center of so many conspiracy theories surrounding Epstein’s life and death.

Read more …

Me when I see this, I’m thinking Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell.

Chinese Farmers Raise Mutant Pigs The Size Of Polar Bears (ZH)

Amid one of the worst food crises in recent memory, Chinese farmers are reportedly trying to breed larger pigs as the African swine fever – less affectionately known as ‘pig ebola’ – has destroyed over 100 million pigs, between one-third and a half of China’s supply of pigs by various estimates, causing pork prices to explode to levels never seen before. As Beijing scrambles to make up for the lost domestic supply with imports, even desperately waiving tariffs on American pork products in what China’s politicians tried to sell to their population (and Washington) as a “gesture of goodwill”, farmers in southern China have raised a pig that’s as heavy as a polar bear.

Once slaughtered, these giant mutant pigs can fetch a, well, giant price on the market. Here’s more from Bloomberg: “The 500 kilogram, or 1,102 pound, animal is part of a herd that’s being bred to become giant swine. At slaughter, some of the pigs can sell for more than 10,000 yuan ($1,399), over three times higher than the average monthly disposable income in Nanning, the capital of Guangxi province where Pang Cong, the farm’s owner, lives.” Soaring pork prices have encouraged small and large farms to experiment with DIY genetic experimentation, in the name of raising pigs that are about 40% heavier than the ‘normal’ weight of 125 kilos.

“High pork prices in the northeastern province of Jilin is prompting farmers to raise pigs to reach an average weight of 175 kilograms to 200 kilograms, higher than the normal weight of 125 kilograms. They want to raise them “as big as possible,” said Zhao Hailin, a hog farmer in the region.”

Read more …

The entire case is falling to bits.

Lula’s Prosecutors Request His Release From Prison. He Refuses. (Greenwald)

The same Brazilian prosecutors who for years exhibited a single-minded fixation on jailing former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva are now seeking his release from prison, requesting that a court allow him to serve the remainder of his 11-year sentence for corruption at home. But Lula — who believes the request is motivated by fear that prosecutorial and judicial improprieties in his case, which were revealed by The Intercept, will lead to the nullification of his conviction — is opposing these efforts, insisting that he will not leave prison until he receives full exoneration. In seeking his release, Lula’s prosecutors are almost certainly not motivated by humanitarian concerns. Quite the contrary: Those prosecutors have often displayed a near-pathological hatred for the two-term former president.

Last month, The Intercept, jointly with its reporting partner UOL, published previously secret Telegram messages in which the Operation Car Wash prosecutors responsible for prosecuting Lula cruelly mocked the tragic death of his 7-year-old grandson from meningitis earlier this year, as well as the 2017 death of his wife of 43 years from a stroke at the age of 66. One of the prosecutors who participated publicly apologized, but none of the others have. Far more likely is that the prosecutors are motivated by desperation to salvage their legacy after a series of defeats suffered by their once-untouchable, widely revered Car Wash investigation, ever since The Intercept, on June 9, began publishing reports based on a massive archive of secret chats between the prosecutors and Sergio Moro, the judge who oversaw most of the convictions, including Lula’s, and who now serves as President Jair Bolsonaro’s Minister of Justice and Public Security.

The prosecutors’ cynical gambit, it appears, is that the country’s Supreme Court — which two weeks ago nullified one of Moro’s anti-corruption convictions for the first time on the ground that he violated core rights of defendants — will feel less pressure to nullify Moro’s guilty verdict in Lula’s case if the ex-president is comfortably at home in São Paulo (albeit under house arrest) rather than lingering in a Curitiba prison. But this strategy ran into a massive roadblock when Lula demanded that he not be released from prison unless and until he is fully exonerated.

Read more …

Weep for the bankers.

HSBC Planning To Cut 10,000 More Staff (AFP)

HSBC is planning to lay off up to 10,000 staff, a report said Monday, just weeks after announcing the resignation of its chief executive and the cutting of 4,000 posts citing a weak global outlook. The latest losses, mostly in high-paid roles, are part of a fresh cost-cutting drive by interim boss Noel Quinn as the banking titan struggles to adjust to falling interest rates, Brexit and the long-running trade war, the Financial Times reported. “We’ve known for years that we need to do something about our cost base, the largest component of which is people — now we are finally grasping the nettle,” the paper quoted an unnamed source as saying.


“There’s some very hard modelling going on. We are asking why we have so many people in Europe when we’ve got double-digit returns in parts of Asia.” The London-headquartered bank last month announced the shock exit of CEO John Flint after just 18 months in the hot seat but gave no reason for the decision. At the same time it revealed it would axe two percent of its global workforce, or roughly 4,000 mostly management jobs, in a new restructuring aimed at weathering the global turmoil. Still, its reported first-half net profit rose 18.6 percent on-year to $8.5 billion. It is due to report third-quarter earnings at the end of October.

Read more …

 

 

 

 

Sep 082019
 
 September 8, 2019  Posted by at 9:40 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , ,  9 Responses »


Pablo Picasso Horses and person 1939

 

 

To everyone used to receiving Automatic Earth posts in their email, I’m sorry but since yesterday they’re suddenly bouncing again en masse. This makes me very tired by now, but I’ll look for a solution. I suspect there may be a connection between this and Google accusing me of violating their rules, without telling me what rules I’m supposed to have violated.

 

 

Boris Johnson Will Challenge Law Stopping No-Deal Exit In Court (Ind.)
UK Minister Amber Rudd Resigns, Says Unclear Who Is Running Country (Ind.)
Churchill’s Grandson Blasts ‘Unreliable’ Boris And ‘Fraud’ Rees-Mogg (Mirror)
How Bad Is Boris Johnson? We Can’t Even Find The Words (G&M)
Trump Abruptly Cancels Afghan Peace Deal, Camp David Meeting With Taliban (BBC)
Ukraine And Russia Exchange Prisoners In Landmark Deal (BBC)
China’s August Exports Unexpectedly Shrink, Imports Remain Weak (R.)
China: A Paper Tiger In A Fragile Economy (LN)
Robert Mueller Helped Saudi Arabia Cover Up Its Role In 9/11 Attacks (NYP)
On the Road to Interview Lula, Into a Brazilian Black Hole (Pepe Escobar)

 

 

I’ll keep saying they should have gone to the courts much sooner. But it’s unclear what the courts can do.

Boris Johnson Will Challenge Law Stopping No-Deal Exit In Court (Ind.)

Boris Johnson will go to court to challenge the order from parliament to delay Brexit, the foreign secretary has revealed. Dominic Raab insisted the government would not break the law – after MPs passed legislation requiring him to seek an Article 50 extension – but said it would not comply either. Vowing to “test to the limit” what the new law demands, Mr Raab said: “We will look very carefully, legally at what it requires and what it doesn’t require.” And, pointing to the failed legal actions to stop parliament being suspended, he told Sky’s Sophy Ridge programme: “We had two legal challenges last week and we won both of those.”


The comments suggest the controversy is heading for the Supreme Court in late October, with Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson’s key aide, believed to be convinced there is a legal way out. Mr Raab also dismissed a warning by a former director of public prosecutions that the prime minister is heading for jail if he flouts the law as “ridiculous”. Shami Chakrabarti, Labour’s shadow attorney general, condemned the comments, saying: “Is that what we say to our kids? Is that what we say to vulnerable kids? It’s irresponsible and elitist.”

Read more …

Boris has claimed progress in talks with the EU, but the EU has said there’s no such thing.

UK Minister Amber Rudd Resigns, Says Unclear Who Is Running Country (Ind.)

Amber Rudd has claimed it is unclear who is running the country following her shock resignation from the government. The former work and pensions secretary said she did not think the cabinet was having “proper discussions about policy”. When asked who was running the country, if not the cabinet, she told The Andrew Marr Show: “If I knew that I would have perhaps had further conversations with the prime minister or them.” Ms Rudd, who announced her resignation from the cabinet on Saturday, said she quit because she had not seen enough evidence of planning for a no-deal Brexit.


She claimed she was shown a “one-page summary” when she asked for evidence of the government’s work in negotiating a deal with the European Union. “It’s 80 to 90 per cent of government time going into preparing for no deal,” she said. “It’s disproportionate.” She added: “There is no evidence of the deal. There is no formal negotiation taking place. “I think we should be doing so much more to get the deal.”

Read more …

Outspoken.

Churchill’s Grandson Blasts ‘Unreliable’ Boris And ‘Fraud’ Rees-Mogg (Mirror)

Sacked Tory rebel MP Sir Nicholas Soames says Boris Johnson is “nothing like” his grandfather Sir Winston Churchill – and called Jacob Rees-Mogg an “absolute fraud”. Sir Nicholas, 71, tore into the Prime Minister and his right-hand man in a scathing interview as “unreliable” Mr Johnson’s Brexit strategy lay in tatters. The MP for 37 years said of the PM: “Boris Johnson is nothing like Winston Churchill. “I don’t think anyone has called Boris a diplomat or statesman.


“We all know the pluses and minuses, everyone he has worked for says the same thing: he writes beautifully [but he’s] deeply unreliable.” And of Mr Rees-Mogg, he was even more unforgiving, telling the Times: “He is in serious danger of believing his own shtick. “He is an absolute fraud, he is a living example of what a moderately cut double-breasted suit and a decent tie can do with an ultra-posh voice and a bit of ginger stuck up his arse.” Sir Nicholas blasted Mr Rees-Mogg after the Leader of the House was pictured slouching on the front bench like a sunbed as the Prime Minister suffered one of several humiliating defeats this week.

Read more …

View from Canada. Whose head of state still is Elizabeth. “British politics today is what results from the collision of an unstoppable force, an immovable object and a clown car.

How Bad Is Boris Johnson? We Can’t Even Find The Words (Globe & Mail)

We begin this editorial with an apology to you, our faithful readers. In March, we described the Brexit situation, then careening through its third year and nowhere close to resolution, as an “omnishambles.” An omnishambles is a state of utter chaos, total disorder and perfect mismanagement – which brings us to our apology. If you’ve been paying any attention to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, you know that, in declaring United Kingdom politics to have reached peak shambolic six months ago, we spoke too soon. Oh, did we ever. Because if the Conservative government was making an omnishambles of Brexit back in the spring – a happy era now remembered as a halcyon age of a merely half-hearted appetite for national self-destruction – then what words can adequately describe the scale of Mr. Johnson’s achievements?

Megashambles? Summa cum laude shambles? Tyrannosaurus shambles? The-Chernobyl-reactor-just-exploded-and-the-dosimeter-reads-15,000-roentgen shambles? Mr. Johnson is the author of 11 books, some admittedly banged out in the careless haste that is his style. But this week, without breaking a sweat, the PM penned the Odyssey and the Iliad of shambles. He faced his first votes in Parliament and lost them; lost his minority government’s governing majority; sacked 21 of his own MPs, including his party’s longest-serving member and Winston Churchill’s grandson; provoked his own brother into resigning from cabinet, citing a conflict between “family loyalty and the national interest”; and lost control of the House of Commons while remaining so offside the chamber’s confidence that it will not yet allow him to resolve the matter by calling an election.

Mr. Johnson did all that, and more, in the space of two days. What will tomorrow bring? British politics today is what results from the collision of an unstoppable force, an immovable object and a clown car.

Read more …

Leaving should still be the priority.

Trump Abruptly Cancels Afghan Peace Deal, Camp David Meeting With Taliban (BBC)

US President Donald Trump says he has called off peace negotiations with the Taliban that sought to end America’s 18-year war in Afghanistan. Mr Trump tweeted he had been set to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and senior Taliban leaders on Sunday. But he cancelled the secret meeting at his Camp David retreat after the militants admitted they were behind a recent attack that killed a US soldier. The US invaded Afghanistan and overthrew the Taliban in 2001. The militants had provided a safe haven for the al-Qaeda network to plan the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US. A source from the Taliban’s political office in Doha told the BBC that the group was set to hold an “urgent internal meeting” to discuss Mr Trump’s decision.


A meeting with the Taliban at Camp David, just ahead of the 18th anniversary of 9/11, would have been an extraordinary diplomatic move by the US president. The top US negotiator had announced a peace deal “in principle” on Monday. It was the result of nine rounds of talks between the US and Taliban representatives, held in Doha, the capital of the Gulf state of Qatar. Mr Trump’s tweets on Saturday evening appeared to put an end to nearly a year of painstaking negotiations which had excluded the Afghan government in Kabul, dismissed by the Taliban as American puppets. “Unfortunately, in order to build false leverage, [the Taliban] admitted to an attack in Kabul that killed one of our great great soldiers,” the president tweeted.

Read more …

I like.

Ukraine And Russia Exchange Prisoners In Landmark Deal (BBC)

Russia and Ukraine have completed a long-awaited exchange of prisoners. Those freed include 24 Ukrainian sailors and – controversially – a “person of interest” over the downing of flight MH17 which killed 298 people. The swap is hoped to ease tensions between the two neighbours. Greeting the Ukrainians at the airport, President Volodymyr Zelensky said: “We have to do all the steps to finish this horrible war.” Russia said it was glad its citizens had returned home. Relations between the two countries deteriorated dramatically in 2014, when Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and Russian-backed rebels began an insurgency in two regions of eastern Ukraine.

Read more …

The trade war can only be part of it.

China’s August Exports Unexpectedly Shrink, Imports Remain Weak (R.)

China’s exports unexpectedly fell in August while imports shrank for a fourth month, pointing to further weakness in the world’s second-largest economy and underlining a pressing need for more stimulus as the Sino-U.S. trade war escalates. Beijing is widely expected to announce more support measures in coming weeks to avert the risk of a sharper economic slowdown as the United States ratchets up trade pressure, including the first cuts in some key lending rates in four years. On Friday, the central bank cut banks’ reserve requirements for the seventh time since early 2018 to free up more funds for lending, days after a cabinet meeting signaled that more policy loosening may be imminent.


August exports fell 1% from a year earlier, the biggest fall since June, when it fell 1.3%, customs data showed on Sunday. Analysts had expected a 2.0% rise in a Reuters poll after July’s 3.3% gain. That’s despite analyst expectations that looming tariffs may have prompted some Chinese exporters to bring forward or “front-load” U.S.-bound shipments into August, a trend seen earlier in the trade dispute. Many analysts expect export growth to slow further in coming months, as evidenced by worsening export orders in both official and private factory surveys. More U.S. tariff measures will take effect on Oct. 1 and Dec. 15. Sunday’s data also showed China’s imports shrank for the fourth consecutive month since April. Imports dropped 5.6% on-year in August, slightly less than an expected 6.0% fall and unchanged from July’s 5.6% decline.

Read more …

Pon Zi.

China: A Paper Tiger In A Fragile Economy (LN)

We typically imagine the Chinese entrepreneur crunching numbers, working around the clock to boost the economy, and repeating Communist propaganda about the West being the supreme devil. But we might have it wrong. Considering that the major source of funding for tens of thousands of companies in China originates from the central bank’s printing press, the reality could be businessmen and employees getting plastered on baijiuand beating each other to death with Pokémon cards during office hours. Think of it as the Eastern version of The Wolf of Wall Street.

[..] Even prior to the trade war, the Chinese government had employed a series of measures to reverse the slump. Thanks to the dispute with the Americans, Beijing’s growth prospects are bearish, projected to fall to a 30-year low of 6.2% in the second quarter of 2019. Because of this, analysts anticipate the PBOC will impose another 50-basis-point RRR decrease. In addition, observers prognosticate that the central bank could cut at least one of its key policy interest rates later this month. This would be the first time since 2015. The routine intervention and stimulus have ostensibly metastasized the economy into an addict, reliant on its next fix. So, can the Chinese economy survive without the state?

In the last five years, China’s M2 money supply – a measurement of the money supply that includes cash, checking deposits, and liquid assets – has ballooned 120%. Since the country is being paralyzed by the trade spat and other negative trends that threaten its foundation, China is not showing any signs that it is ready to hit the pause button on money-printing. In fact, judging by previous remarks by PBOC heads, Beijing might rev it up even more, especially if the downturn intensifies. But can China print to infinity? It may have to because seemingly every area of the economy counts on being propped up by the Communists through cash injections, stimulus projects, and bailouts.

Read more …

“He was the master when it came to covering up the kingdom’s role in 9/11..”

Robert Mueller Helped Saudi Arabia Cover Up Its Role In 9/11 Attacks (NYP)

After a lengthy investigation, special counsel Robert Mueller charged Russia made “multiple, systematic efforts to interfere in our election” and said the incursion “deserves the attention of every American.” But former FBI investigators say their old boss didn’t feel the same concern when they uncovered multiple, systemic efforts by the Saudi government to assist the hijackers in the lead-up to the 9/11 attacks — a far more consequential, to say nothing of deadly, foreign influence operation on America. As the head of the FBI at the time, they say Mueller was not nearly as interested in investigating that espionage conspiracy, which also involved foreign intelligence officers. Far from it, the record shows he covered up evidence pointing back to the Saudi Embassy and Riyadh — and may have even misled Congress about what he knew.


9/11 victims agree. “He was the master when it came to covering up the kingdom’s role in 9/11,” said survivor Sharon Premoli, who was pulled from the rubble of the World Trade Center 18 years ago. “In October of 2001, Mueller shut down the government’s investigation after only three weeks, and then took part in the Bush [administration’s] campaign to block, obfuscate and generally stop anything about Saudi Arabia from being released,” added Premoli, now a plaintiff in the 9/11 lawsuit against Saudi Arabia. In fact, Mueller threw up roadblocks in the path of his own investigators working the 9/11 case, while making it easier for Saudi suspects to escape questioning, multiple case agents told me. Then he deep-sixed what evidence his agents did manage to uncover, according to the 9/11 lawsuit against the Saudis.

Read more …

Pepe with Lula and Dilma Rousseff, astonished at the changes in the country.

On the Road to Interview Lula, Into a Brazilian Black Hole (Pepe Escobar)

We were just beginning to hit cruising speed in our wide-ranging, 2 hour and 10 minute world exclusive interview with former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva in his prison at the Federal Police building in Curitiba, in southern Brazil. And then it hit us hard when he told us: “The US was very much afraid when I discussed a new currency and Obama called me, telling me, ‘Are you trying to create a new currency, a new euro?’ I said, ‘No, I’m just trying to get rid of the U.S. dollar. I’m just trying not to be dependent.’”


It was the foundation stone of what would build into a complex, rolling Hybrid War coup, from NSA spying on the Brazilian government and leading national companies, to the Car Wash corruption investigation (now demolished as a monster racket) to the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, the imprisonment of Lula, and the emergence of the Purveyor of Chaos, Jair Bolsonaro. My journey started in Cambodia. I had spent hours wandering around Beng Mealea, the jungle squeezing the stony repose of the Angkorian ruins, meditating on the rise and fall of empires. The message popped up on my phone in the dead of night: the request for an interview with Lula, placed five months ago, had been approved. How soon could I get to Sao Paulo?

Read more …

 

 

 

 

 

Apr 272019
 


Vincent van Gogh Pietà (after Delacroix) 1889

 

The Big Mystery In The GDP Report – Where Did The Inventories Come From? (MW)
China Finds Dollar Hegemony Is A Tough Nut To Crack (WS)
Nearly 102 Million Americans Do Not Have A Job Right Now (Snyder)
Trump Makes Post-Mueller Vow To Release “Devastating” FISA Docs (ZH)
Blowback Is a Harsh Mistress (Kunstler)
Marina Butina Sentenced To 18 Months In Prison (ZH)
Labour Party In ‘Complete Meltdown’ Over Final Say (Ind.)
London Extinction Rebellion Mural is a Banksy (G.)
Greeks The Most Stressed People Worldwide – Gallup (K.)
Brazil Governed By ‘Lunatics’ And US ‘Lackeys’ – Lula (G.)
Ecuador Amazon Tribe Win First Victory Against Government, Oil Companies (AFP)

 

 

Industrial production and imports are both down. But inventories rise.

The Big Mystery In The GDP Report – Where Did The Inventories Come From? (MW)

It is a case that would make Sherlock Holmes proud. Growth in the first quarter smashed expectations, fueled in part by strong inventory building. According to the government, $32 billion of goods were added to inventories this quarter, or $128 billion annualized. This stockpiling of goods boosted first-quarter GDP growth by about 70 basis points and helped propel growth to a 3.2% annual rate, well above forecasts. The problem is that it is not at all obvious where these inventories came from. Goods have to come from somewhere, either produced by domestic firms or imported from abroad. The mystery is that both production and imports fell in the first three months of the year, according to government data.

“You can’t stockpile what you do not import or do not produce,” said Robert Brusca, chief economist at FAO Economics. The Fed reported last week that industrial output slipped at a 0.3% annual rate in the first quarter. And the government’s GDP report estimates that imports fell 3.7% in the first three months of the year. The one other explanation — that consumption fell sharply enough to leave businesses with unexpected unsold goods — also doesn’t fit the evidence, Brusca said. Consumption did not fall faster than industrial production or imports to generate any surplus, he said. To be sure, spending on consumer durable goods fell 5.3%, the biggest drop in 10 years. Business spending on equipment was also weak. “Any way you slice it, this GDP report…is an apparent mess,” he said.

Read more …

Nobody will want the yuan as long as Beijing decides what it’s worth.

China Finds Dollar Hegemony Is A Tough Nut To Crack (WS)

In terms of global reserve currency, the renminbi (RMB) has a share of only 1.9%, in fifth place, and barely ahead of the Canadian dollar, but miles behind the US dollar (61.7%) and the euro (20.7%). Over the past two years, the RMB has made only microscopic headway as a reserve currency. And as an international payments currency, the RMB has failed similarly to crack the co-hegemony of the dollar and the euro. “With more than 1,900 financial institutions now using the RMB for payments with China and Hong Kong, the internationalization of RMB carries great strategic significance” for banks and financial institutions, gushes SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), which tracks the progress of the RMB as payment currency.


But in March 2019, the RMB had a minuscule share of merely 1.22% for international cross-border payments by value (cross-border payments from one Eurozone country to another Eurozone country are excluded). This minuscule share put the RMB in 8th position, just behind the Swiss franc:

Read more …

Civilian labor force participation rate lingers around 63%.

Nearly 102 Million Americans Do Not Have A Job Right Now (Snyder)

At this moment, we are told that only 6.2 million Americans are officially “unemployed”, and that sounds really, really good. But that is only half the story. What the mainstream media rarely mentions is the fact that the number of Americans categorized as “not in the labor force” has absolutely exploded since the last recession. Right now, that number is sitting at 95.577 million. When you add 6.2 million “officially unemployed” Americans to 95.577 million Americans that are categorized as “not in the labor force”, you get a grand total of almost 102 million Americans that do not have a job right now. If that sounds terrible to you, that is because it is terrible.

Yes, the U.S. population has been growing over the last decade, and that is part of the reason why the number of Americans “not in the labor force” has been growing. But overall, the truth is that the level of unemployment in this country is not that much different than it was during the last recession. John Williams of shadowstats.com tracks what the real employment figure would be if honest numbers were being used, and according to him the real rate of unemployment in the United States at the moment is 21.2 percent.

Just before the last recession, the civilian labor force participation rate was sitting at about 66 percent, and that was pretty good. But then the recession hit, and the civilian labor force participation rate fell below 63 percent, and it stayed between 62 percent and 63 percent for an extended period of time. So where are we today? At this moment, we are sitting at just 63.0 percent. Does that look like a recovery to you? Of course not.

Read more …

“I’m glad I waited because i thought that maybe they would obstruct if I did it early..”

Trump Makes Post-Mueller Vow To Release “Devastating” FISA Docs (ZH)

President Trump on Thursday renewed his vow to declassify a wide swath of “devastating” documents related to the Russia probe “and much more” – adding that he’s glad he waited until the Mueller investigation was complete. In a Thursday night phone interview on Fox News, host Sean Hannity asked “will you declassify the FISA applications, gang of 8 material, those 302s – what we call on this program ‘the bucket of five’?” To which Trump replied: “Yes, everything is going to be declassified – and more, much more than what you just mentioned. It will all be declassified, and I’m glad I waited because i thought that maybe they would obstruct if I did it early – and I think I was right. So I’m glad I waited, and now the Attorney General can take a look – a very strong look at whatever it is, but it will be declassified and more than what you just mentioned.”

Last September 17th, Trump vowed to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, as well as specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, and interviews with the DOJ’s Bruce Ohr. nFour days later, however, Trump said over Twitter that the Justice Department – then headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions (while the Russia investigation was headed up by Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein) – told him that it might have a negative impact on the Russia probe, and that key US allies had asked him not to release the documents.

“I met with the DOJ concerning the declassification of various UNREDACTED documents,” Trump tweeted. “They agreed to release them but stated that so doing may have a perceived negative impact on the Russia probe. Also, key Allies’ called to ask not to release. Therefore, the Inspector General has been asked to review these documents on an expedited basis. I believe he will move quickly on this (and hopefully other things which he is looking at). In the end I can always declassify if it proves necessary. Speed is very important to me – and everyone!”

That key ally turns out to have been the UK, according to the New York Times., which reported last September that their concern was over material which “includes direct references to conversations between American law enforcement officials and Christopher Steele,” the former MI6 agent who compiled the infamous “Steele Dossier.” We now know, of course, that Steele had extensive contact with Bruce and Nellie Ohr in 2016, while Bruce was the #4 official at the Obama DOJ, and Nellie was working for Fusion GPS – the opposition research firm hired by Hillary Clinton and the DNC to produce the infamous Steele Dossier.

Read more …

“Mr. Mueller himself may well be subject to prosecution for destroying evidence and, yes, obstruction of justice…”

Blowback Is a Harsh Mistress (Kunstler)

The Thinking Class behind the bad faith Resistance is about to be beaten within an inch of its place in history with an ugly-stick of reality as The Narrative finally comes to be fairly adjudicated. The Mueller Report was much more than just disappointing; it was a comically inept performance insofar as it managed to overlook the only incidence of collusion that actually took place: namely, the disinfo operation sponsored by the Hillary Clinton campaign in concert with the highest officials of the FBI, the Department of Justice, State Department personnel, the various Intel agencies, and the Obama White house for the purpose of interfering in the 2016 election.


It will turn out that the Mueller Investigation was just an extension of that felonious op, and Mr. Mueller himself may well be subject to prosecution for destroying evidence and, yes, obstruction of justice. John F. Kennedy once observed that “life is unfair.” It is unfair, perhaps, that a TV Reality Show huckster, clown, and rank outsider beat a highly credentialed veteran of the political establishment and that he flaunts his lack of decorum in the Oval Office. But it happens that he was on the side of the truth in the RussiaGate farrago and that happens to place him in a position of advantage going forward.

Read more …

The empire destroying lives to uphold a narrative. It no longer matters what these crazies say, and they know it. The public swallows anything thrown at them. Collusion, Assange, Butina, these are all fictional stories, but today they dictate the headlines and dominate the airwaves. Butina is accused of “Ambitious conspiracy”. When she was 22.

Marina Butina Sentenced To 18 Months In Prison (ZH)

Accused Russian spy Marina Butina has been sentenced to 18 months in prison on Friday after pleading guilty to acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, the Hill reports. Butina, who was arrested in 2018, pled guilty to the charges in late. 2018. She will only serve nine months, as the judge knocked nine months off her sentence for time served. Prosecutors had recommended that she serve an additional 18 months, while her lawyers had asked for no prison time and her immediate deportation. Butina wasn’t mentioned in the Mueller report. Before her sentencing hearing on Friday, Butina pleaded with the judge for leniency, RT reports.


“My parents discovered my arrest on the morning news they watch in their rural house in a Siberian village,” she told the court. “I love them dearly, but I harmed them morally and financially. They are suffering from all of that. I destroyed my own life as well. I came to the United States not under any orders, but with hope, and now nothing remains but penitence.” Butina arrived in the US on a student visa in 2016 and became active in pro-gun circles. During the investigation into Russian interference that followed Trump’s electoral triumph, she was accused of working with the Russian government to infiltrate the Republican Party and National Rifle Association. Moscow and President Putin have denied any connection with her.

Read more …

Corbyn still clings to his dreams of an independent left-wing Britain. But matters haven’t stood still for the past 3 years.

Labour Party In ‘Complete Meltdown’ Over Final Say (Ind.)

Jeremy Corbyn is under growing pressure over his party’s position on a second Brexit referendum after a leaked draft of a campaign leaflet included no mention of a Final Say vote. The Labour leader faced an angry backlash over the flyer, with MPs saying it had triggered “complete meltdown” in the party and left pro-EU MPs “utterly furious”. As the row deepened, 75 MPs and 14 MEPs wrote to Labour’s governing body to demand that “a clear commitment” to another referendum be included in the party’s manifesto for next month’s European parliament elections. Mr Corbyn’s top team is split on whether Labour should support a second referendum. Several senior shadow cabinet ministers want the party to support a public vote on any Brexit deal passed by parliament, but Mr Corbyn’s inner circle say he only supports a referendum on the government’s deal or to avoid a no-deal outcome.


Other shadow ministers oppose another public poll entirely. In their letter to the National Executive Committee (NEC), the MPs and MEPs said Labour had “a clear opportunity to win these elections” if it fully supports a Final Say vote. They wrote: “These elections are about the kind of Europe we want to live in, and we can’t make a convincing case in them without being clear about Brexit. Labour has already, rightly, backed a confirmatory public vote. The overwhelming majority of our members and voters support this, and it is the democratically established policy of the party. “Our members need to feel supported on doorsteps by a clear manifesto that marks us out as the only viable alternative to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

Read more …

First, you just have a wall. The next day, you have a wall worth a million dollars.

London Extinction Rebellion Mural is a Banksy (G.)

A Banksy collector and expert believes a mural that appeared at Extinction Rebellion’s Marble Arch base overnight is an authentic piece by the Bristolian street artist. John Brandler, who owns a dozen pieces by Banksy is convinced the artwork – which features the slogan “From this moment despair ends and tactics begin” next to a young girl sitting on the ground holding an Extinction Rebellion logo – is an original because of its execution and theme. The art dealer and gallerist said: “I’m convinced about the one in London for two reasons: it’s a topic that he would support, and it’s a continuation of the Port Talbot piece that appeared in December 2018.

“The name in the corner is not important, the signature is the work. And this is a Banksy. It’s a wonderful statement and a beautiful piece.” The work appeared at the site which had been occupied by climate activists since protests began in the capital almost two weeks ago. A spokesperson for Westminster council confirmed the work was being investigated but had not been authenticated yet. “We’re aware of the possible Banksy which appeared in Marble Arch overnight. Our officers are looking into this,” he said. Banksy has not confirmed whether the painting is legitimate, and his press team did not respond to a request for comment.

Read more …

Gallup does really bad surveys.

Greeks The Most Stressed People Worldwide – Gallup (K.)

Greeks are the most stressed people in the world, according to the results of the Gallup 2019 Global Emotions report conducted on a sample of 150,000 people in 140 countries. According to the poll, which was conducted last year, 59 percent of Greeks said they “experienced a lot of stress yesterday,” putting Greece at the top of the chart for the third consecutive year. After Greece on the list are the Philippines, Tanzania and Albania. The same poll asked respondents about their negative experiences and participants from Chad, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Iraq and Iran polled the highest. The survey also polled anger levels with Armenians topping the chart, followd by Iraqis, Iranians and Palestinians. The five countries recording the most positive experiences are Paraguay, Panama, Guatemala, Mexico and El Salvador.

Read more …

“Does anyone really think the US is going to favour Brazil?” Lula asked. “Americans think of themselves first, second, third, fourth, fifth – and if there’s any time left over they think about Americans.”

Brazil Governed By ‘Lunatics’ And US ‘Lackeys’ – Lula (G.)

Brazil is being governed by “a bunch of lunatics” and United States “lackeys” who have shattered its international reputation, former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has claimed in his first interview since being jailed one year ago. Lula, Brazil’s president from 2003 and 2011, surrendered himself to police last April after being convicted on corruption charges he disputes. The 73-year-old leftist had been forbidden from giving face-to-face interviews until Friday, when two Brazilian journalists were allowed to visit him at his prison in southern Brazil following a lengthy legal battle.

Lula told them Brazil needed to undergo period of “self-reflection” after what he described as the “crazy” fake news and hate-filled election of far-right populist Jair Bolsonaro last year. “What we can’t have is this country being run governed by a bunch of lunatics. The country doesn’t deserve this and above all the people do not deserve this.” “Brazil is adrift – so far he doesn’t know what to do,” he added of Bolsonaro, who took office in January and has suffered a turbulent opening act in power. Lula said he profoundly regretted “the disaster that is taking place in this country” and criticised Brazil’s dramatic tack towards Washington under Bolsonaro.

“I’ve never seen a [Brazilian] president salute the American flag. I’ve never seen a president go around saying, ‘I love the United States, I love it!’” Lula said of Bolsonaro, who paints himself as a “tropical Trump” and last month travelled to the United States to tout his close relations with the US president. “You should love your mother, you should love your country. What’s all this about loving the United States? “Does anyone really think the US is going to favour Brazil?” Lula asked. “Americans think of themselves first, second, third, fourth, fifth – and if there’s any time left over they think about Americans. And these Brazilian lackeys go around thinking the Americans will do anything for us.”

Read more …

Funny that AFP headline said they won vs oil companies. But in reality they beat Lenin Moreno trying to sell them off to the US, like he did Assange. There is SOME decency left in Ecuador.

Ecuador Amazon Tribe Win First Victory Against Government, Oil Companies (AFP)

Ecuador’s Waorani indigenous tribe won their first victory Friday against big oil companies in a ruling that blocks the companies’ entry onto ancestral Amazonian lands for oil exploration activities. After two weeks of deliberations, a criminal court in Puyo, central Ecuador, accepted a Waorani bid for court protection in Pastaza province to stop an oil bidding process after the government moved to open up around 180,000 hectares for exploration. The lands are protected under Ecuador’s constitution that establishes the “inalienable, unseizable and indivisible” rights of indigenous people “to maintain possession of their ancestral lands and obtain their free adjudication.” Crucially, however, the wealth in the subsoil is owned by the state.


The constitution also enshrines the need for prior consultation on any plans to exploit the underground resources, given the probable environmental and cultural impacts on tribal communities. The state reached an agreement with the Waorani over oil exploration in 2012, but the tribe’s leaders say they were duped. The judges ordered the government to conduct a new consultation, applying standards set by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, based in San Jose. The ruling “has created a significant precedent for the Amazon,” said Lina Maria Espinosa, attorney for the plaintiffs, outside court. “It has been demonstrated that there was no consultation and that the state violated the rights of this people, and therefore of other peoples.”

Read more …

 

 

Mar 202016
 
 March 20, 2016  Posted by at 9:50 am Finance Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,  2 Responses »


NPC Kidwell’s Market on Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC 1920

World Is ‘Overloaded On Monetary Policy’, Says OECD (Tel.)
Central Banks Are Already Doing The Unthinkable – You Just Don’t Know It (Tel.)
Helicopter Drops By Stealth (Tel.)
Buyback Blackout Period Starts Monday (ZH)
Another False Oil Price Rally: Crossing A Boundary (Berman)
China’s Property Rally Has ‘Reached A Tipping Point’ (Forbes)
China’s Bottom Line to Avoid Systemic Risks, Vice Premier Says (BBG)
China Top Planner Promises Foreign Companies Access To Markets (WaPo)
Why Are There Doubts Over China’s Growth Rate? (Forbes)
Support For Impeaching Brazil’s President Rises To 68% (Reuters)
German Right Wing Demands Referendum on EU, Refugee Crisis (Express)
Greece Delays Sending Refugees Back To Turkey Under EU Deal (AFP)
EU-Turkey Deal: Officials Left In The Dark As Deadline Looms (Tel.)
Don’t Make Us Ashamed To Be European (3 Mayors)

One trick ponies.

World Is ‘Overloaded On Monetary Policy’, Says OECD (Tel.)

Central banks cannot haul economies out of stagnation on their own, the OECD has warned. Catherine Mann, chief economist at the Paris-based think-tank, said countries were now “overloaded on monetary policy” as she described the use of negative interest rates as “a reaction of central banks trying to meet the objective of raising inflation and fostering growth alone”. Ms Mann said banks faced being “squeezed” by the unintended consequences of sub-zero rates in an environment where demand remained subdued. The OECD has repeatedly warned that fiscal policy and structural reforms are needed to ensure recoveries are self-sustaining. “In the economies where negative interest rates are most deployed, the credit channel is particularly important, and this is impaired. Banks in Europe for example have not deleveraged and they as a result are not in a position to effectively lend credit,” said Ms Mann.

“They are also squeezed in the middle between negative interest rates on the one hand and very soft economic activity on the other. So negative interest rates are tough. It’s a tough policy to use.” Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, has warned that negative interest rates could do more harm than good by eating into banks and building societies’ profits and pushing up consumer charges. Earlier this month, the ECB stepped up efforts to reflate the eurozone. Policymakers slashed its deposit rate deeper into negative territory and beefed-up its quantitative easing programme. In a bid to spur credit growth, the ECB sweetened its incentive for banks to lend by revamping its targeted longer-term refinancing operations (TLTROs).

From this June, banks that lend more will be paid as much as 0.4pc to borrow from the ECB. Ms Mann said the ECB’s actions were welcome, but would not get Europe “back on track” on their own. “The ECB has done a lot, but the effective way to enhance economic activity in the euro area is a three-legged stool: fiscal, monetary and structural. What [Mario] Draghi [the president of the ECB] has done is make the monetary leg of the stool even longer, so we’re not there yet with the recipe we need in order to get Europe back on track.” Some experts argue that central banks will be forced to inject money directly into the economy through so-called “helicopter drops” in order to boost flagging nations.

Read more …

The road to helicopter money.

Central Banks Are Already Doing The Unthinkable – You Just Don’t Know It (Tel.)

The lords of finance are losing their touch. Institutions which dragged the world from its worst depression since the early 20th century are finally seeing their magic desert them, if conventional wisdom is to be believed. Eight years on the from the Great Recession, voices as authoritative as the IMF and the BIS – dubbed the ‘central bank of central banks’ – have called time on the era of extraordinary monetary policy. Having hoovered up $12.3 trillion in financial assets and carried out 637 interest rate cuts since 2008, central banks have been stunned back into action in the last six weeks. The Bank of Japan kicked off a new round of global easing with its decision to cross the rubicon into negative interest rate territory on January 29.

Eurozone policymakers followed suit earlier this month with a triple whammy of interest rate cuts, €20bn in additional asset purchases a month, and an unprecedented move to allow commercial banks to borrow money at negative rates. The Federal Reserve has also taken its foot off the pedal by slashing its expected interest rate hikes from four a year to just two. But the new wave of policy accommodation has ushered in fresh panic that monetary policy is suddenly subject to dwindling returns. Instead, talk has turned to governments finally pulling their weight to support the shaky global recovery. Fiscal policy has been largely dormant in the wake of the crisis as countries have concentrated on bringing down debt and deficits levels, binding themselves to stringent spending rules in the process.

Without tax breaks and greater state investment, the world is at risk of another “economic derailment”, the IMF has warned. The latest G20 communique has paid lip service to the idea that global governments will adopt policies to “strengthen growth, job creation and confidence”. In reality, there are little signs that politicians are ready to jettison their fixations on low debt and balanced budgets to support global growth.

Read more …

Part 2 of the long article above that takes a while getting to the point.

Helicopter Drops By Stealth (Tel.)

For some observers, the next phase in extraordinary central bank action has already arrived, and it is Japan which is leading the way. The Bank of Japan’s move to impose a three tiered deposit rate on banks this year can be seen as a covert attempt to transfer funds to the private sector, argues Eric Lonergan, economist and hedge fund manager. He notes that the BoJ’s decision to exempt some reserves from the negative rate represents a transfer of cash to commercial lenders at rate of 0.1pc. The system “separates out the interest rate on reserves from that which affects market rates”, says Lonergan. “It is taking the first step along the journey towards helicopter money and opens up a whole new avenue of stimulus”. In the same vein, the ECB has also signaled its intention to move away from endless interest rate cuts towards targeted attempts to boost private sector credit demand.

From June, eurozone banks will be paid as much as 0.4pc to borrow from the ECB for four years – a scheme dubbed ‘Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operations’ (TLTRO’s). Lenders who do the most to pass on cheap loans to customers will be rewarded with the most favourable rates. “I wish they’d done it an awful lot sooner”, says Lonergan, who notes that for all its institutional constraints, the ECB still boasts a number of tools to boost bank lending. With government borrowing costs at rock bottom across the eurozone, even more QE would be unnecessary at this stage, he says. TLTRO’s however, “open the possibility of two different rates where you can leave the policy rate unchanged but lend to banks at lower and lower rates contingent on them lending to the real economy” he adds. “It is much cleverer way of doing things because savers do not suffer.”

But central bank ingenuity – however welcome – raises separate concerns about the accountability of institutions whose independence is sacrosanct but where decision-making is often insulated from public view. Lord Adair Turner, a former chairman of the Financial Services Authority, and one of the earliest advocates of helicopter money, calls for more transparency in a bid to finally smash the taboos around injecting money straight into the hands of consumers or governments. “I think it is more dangerous for central banks to forever denying what they are doing,” says Lord Turner. He calls Japan’s move to issue government debt at a rate of 40 trillion yen, while the central bank expands its balance sheet at a rate of 80 trillion yen a year, “a de facto debt monetisation”. “You are effectively replacing government debt with central bank money,” says Lord Turner. “It would be better for authorities to publish a statement, laying out the rules and assuring the world it is not too much.”

Read more …

It’s been all buybacks, so this should scare you.

Buyback Blackout Period Starts Monday (ZH)

Last week, one day before the Fed unleashed a statement that stunned Wall Street by its dovishness and admission that the Fed had been far too optimistic on the state of the US (and global) economy, when it slashed its forecast on the number of rate hikes from 4 to 2, we said that “while everyone’s attention is on the Fed, the biggest danger to the S&P500 has little to do with what Janet Yellen may say tomorrow, and everything to do with the marginal buyer of stocks being put into a state of forced hibernation”, namely the start of the stock buyback blackout period during Q1 earnings session.

As a reminder, even Bloomberg recently acknowledged the unprecedented role corporate stock repurchases play in the current market when it penned “There’s Only One Buyer Keeping S&P 500’s Bull Market Alive.” Of course,  our readers have known the identity of the “mystery, indescriminate buyer” for two years.

Today, it is Deutsche Bank’s turn to warn about the imminent end of buybacks for the next 6 weeks. From Parag Thatte’s latest Asset Allocation and Flows report:

Buyback blackout period starts Monday. An increasing number of S&P 500 companies will enter into their blackout period starting next week, about a month before the earnings season kicks into high gear in the third week of April

Deutsche Bank tries to spin it as not necessarily a source of downside:

The blackout period means a slowing in the pace of buybacks which leaves equities vulnerable to negative catalysts. However it does not automatically imply downside and as we have emphasized before it is the total demand-supply gap that is key. So flows are critical and data surprises suggest the recent flow rotation into US equities can go further

There are two problems with this assessment. First. as DB’s own chart below shows, traditionally US equity flows have seen substantial and sharp declines during the buyback blackout period during the past three calendar years. It is unclear why this time will be any different.

Second, and more important, is that as Bank of America reported earlier this week, in the latest week “during which the S&P 500 climbed 1.1%, BofAML clients were net sellers of US stocks for the seventh consecutive week. Net sales of $3.7bn were the largest since September and led by institutional clients (where net sales by this group were the second-largest in our data history). Hedge funds and private clients were also net sellers, as was the case in each of the prior two weeks, but a different group has led the selling each week. Clients sold stocks across all three size segments, and net sales of mid-caps were notably the largest since June ’09.”

BofA’s summary: “clients don’t believe the rally, continue to sell US stocks” and they were selling specifically to corporations whose repurchasing activity is near all time highs: “buybacks by corporate clients accelerated for the third consecutive week to their highest level in six months, which is also above levels at this time last year.

Next week this “accelerating” buyback activity ends, and the question will be whether the S&P at a high enough level to give institutional investors comfort that without the buyback bid, in fact the only bid for the past seven weeks, they should now buy on their own, or will the selling, which took place as the market has soared from its recent lows in its biggest quarterly comeback ever…

 

… continue, only this time with a cheap debt-funded, price indiscriminate buyer on the other side to absorb all the selling. We will have the answer in just about one week’s time.

Read more …

Keep your eyes on the dollar.

Another False Oil Price Rally: Crossing A Boundary (Berman)

The oil-price rally that began in mid-February will almost certainly collapse. It is similar to the false March-June 2015 rally. In both cases, prices increased largely because of sentiment. As in the earlier rally, current storage volumes are too large and demand is too weak to sustain higher prices for long. WTI prices have increased 47%  over the past 20 days from $26.21 in mid-February to $38.50 last week (Figure 1).

Figure 1. NYMEX WTI futures prices & OVX oil-price volatility, 2015-2016. Source: EIA, CBOE, Bloomberg and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc. (click image to enlarge).

 

A year ago, WTI rose 41% in 35 days from $43 to almost $61 per barrel. Like today, analysts then believed that a bottom had been reached. Prices stayed around $60 for 37 days before falling to a new bottom of $38 per barrel in late August. Much lower bottoms would be found after that all the way down to almost $26 per barrel at the beginning of the present rally.

Higher prices were unsustainable a year ago partly because crude oil inventories were more than 100 mmb (million barrels) above the 5-year average (Figure 2). Current inventory levels are 50 mmb higher than during the false rally of 2015 and are they still increasing.

Figure 2. U.S. crude oil stocks. Source: EIA and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc. (click image to enlarge).

 

International stocks reflect a similar picture. OECD inventories are at 3.1 billion barrels of liquids, 431 mmb more than the 2010-2014 average and 359 mmb above the 2015 level. Approximately one-third of OECD stocks are U.S. (1.35 billion barrels of liquids).

For 2015, U.S. liquids consumption shows a negative correlation with crude oil storage volumes (Figure 3). During the 2015 false price rally, consumption began to increase in April and May following the lowest WTI oil prices since March 2009–response lags cause often by several months. First quarter 2015 prices averaged $47.54 compared to an average price of more than $99 per barrel from November 2010 through September 2014 (44 months).

Figure 3. U.S. liquids consumption, crude oil stocks and WTI price. Source: EIA, Bloomberg and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc. (click image to enlarge).

 

This coincided with the onset of declining U.S. crude oil production after April 2015 (Figure 4).

Figure 4. U.S. crude oil production and forecast. Source: EIA March 2016 STEO and Labyrinth Consulting Services, Inc. (click image to enlarge).

 

Net withdrawals from storage continued until consumption fell in July in response to higher oil prices that climbed to $60 per barrel in June. Production increased because of higher prices from July through November before resuming its decline after prices fell again, this time, far below previous lows. This complex sequence of market responses shows how sensitive the current market is to relatively small changes in price, production and consumption.

Most importantly, it suggests that a price variation of only $15 per barrel was enough to depress consumption a year ago. That has profound implications for the present price rally that is now $12 per barrel above its baseline and has already increased by a greater percentage than the 2015 rally.

Read more …

“For homebuyers, it is easier than ever to get mortgages.” But more important, the downpayment itself is today often being financed through peer-to-peer lending channels, [..] basically another form of high-interest “loan shark.”

China’s Property Rally Has ‘Reached A Tipping Point’ (Forbes)

The real estate market in China is once again burning hot. Home prices in Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen have surged by 20-30% since the Lunar New Year in February, according to state-controlled media. In Shenzhen, prices have increased by more than 70% over the past 12 months. “The makings of this rally started more than a year ago and have reached a tipping point,” says Steven McCord at JLL North China. “Policies are looser than at any time in history in the last ten years, including the major policy rollbacks of 2009.” This is not the first time China is facing a property bubble. But one thing makes this time around different – unregulated lending. Previous upswings were not driven by leverage, McCord explains. The norm was that people did not finance the maximum allowable level.

They financed, on average, half of the cost – even if 70% or 80% was allowed. Therefore, mortgages did not play a role in driving up demand or prices. “Now, we believe there are more buyers using the maximum available leverage,” he says. “For homebuyers, it is easier than ever to get mortgages.” But more important, McCord adds, the downpayment itself is today often being financed through peer-to-peer lending channels. “This is not the norm yet, but it’s appearing and it makes us uncomfortable,” he says. “This means some buyers are buying with zero down.” In his view, peer-to-peer lenders are basically another form of high-interest “loan shark.” Hong Kong Economic Journals recently reported that some 900 peer-to-peer lending platforms went belly up last year, three times the number in 2014.

While some bankruptcies were due to poor management, many companies folded after the owner or operator took the money and disappeared. “Unregulated lending adds fuel to the fire of any bubble, and this could be a real problem if it becomes common,” McCord said. Chen Zhenggao, Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development, said earlier this week that China’s real estate market would not collapse. “It is not appropriate to compare the real estate market in China with that of Japan in the 1990s, as the two countries are in different stages of economic development and urbanization. We also have different macro policies to control the situation,” Chen said at a news conference.

Read more …

Really?

China’s Bottom Line to Avoid Systemic Risks, Vice Premier Says (BBG)

China will do what it needs to tamp down risks to the stocks, bonds, foreign-exchange and property markets as economic growth slows, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli said in a speech. The economy faces “relatively large” downward pressure, said Zhang, who is one of seven members of the ruling Communist Party’s top decision-making body, the Politburo Standing Committee. He said plans for a 3% fiscal deficit, outlined in Premier Li Keqiang’s March 5 report to the national legislature, are meant to ease the burden on business. “There will be no systemic risks – that’s our bottom line,” Zhang told the China Development Forum, an annual gathering of global business leaders and Chinese government officials. Zhang’s remarks echoed recent comments from top officials, including the chairman of the securities regulator, that the government would act swiftly to stop the sort of market turmoil that led to a $5 trillion stock-market wipeout last August.

Premier Li Keqiang told his annual news conference on March 16 that China needs to be on the lookout for financial-market risks with “golden-gaze fiery eyes.” Speaking earlier Sunday, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said China is in the middle of a historic transition that’s “good for China and good for the world.” “We should expect that, like any major transition, it will at times be bumpy,” Lagarde said, according to her prepared remarks. “A delicate balance needs to be struck between shifting to a relatively slower but more sustainable pace of growth, and advancing much-needed structural reforms.” Zhang said the government plans to cut overcapacity, especially in the steel and coal sectors. China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, unveiled during the legislative session that ended March 16, said the government will reduce as much as 150 million tons of steel capacity.

Read more …

After they’ve collapsed.

China Top Planner Promises Foreign Companies Access To Markets (WaPo)

China’s top planner tried to reassure foreign companies they are welcome in its slowing, state-dominated economy in a speech Sunday aimed at dispelling growing anxiety Beijing is squeezing them out of promising industries. Speaking to an audience that included executives of top global companies at a government-organized conference, Xu Shaoshi pledged to “promote two-way opening up and liberalization.” Xu promised foreign companies equal treatment with local enterprises as Beijing carries out a sweeping overhaul aimed at promoting self-sustaining growth based on domestic consumption and making state companies that dominate a range of industries more competitive and efficient. “We are ready to share these growth opportunities with you,” said Xu, chairman of the Cabinet’s National Reform and Development Commission.

The China Development Forum 2016 is being closely watched by global companies because it comes at the start of the ruling Communist Party’s latest five-year development plan that runs through 2020. Executives are eager to learn details of how the party might carry out pledges to make the economy more competitive, open more industries to private and possibly foreign competitors and to shrink bloated, money-losing industries including coal, steel and cement. The guest list for the weekend conference at a government guesthouse in the Chinese capital included executives of U.S., European and Asian banks, manufacturers, Internet and other companies.

The ruling party’s plan promises to give the private sector a bigger economic role, but business groups say regulators are trying to shield Chinese rivals from competition or compel foreign companies to hand over technology in exchange for market access. Business groups say Beijing has yet to carry out most of the reforms promised in a separate 2013 plan that called for giving market forces a “decisive role” in the economy. They point to limits on foreign ownership in an array of industries and say in some areas such as information security technology for banks regulators are reducing or blocking market access.

Read more …

“Examining a range of indicators from VAT rates to steel production volumes, and comparing the results to estimates of the government deficit, produces the startling suggestion that “the real economy in China probably isn’t growing at all.”

Why Are There Doubts Over China’s Growth Rate? (Forbes)

China’s growth rate has been in the spotlight ever since Li Keqiang – China’s Premier – signalled the arrival of a ‘new normal’ in May 2015. Before then, headline rates routinely in excess of 8%, even rising above 14% in 2007, meant the detail was not scrutinised so closely. Now, however, with growth forecast between 6.5% and 7% for the period to 2020, the decimal points are beginning to matter. For China, the growth rate indicates the continuing success of their economic development, and measures their progress towards prosperity. For the rest of the world, Chinese growth has become a crucial source of global demand, driving expansion – and revenue streams – everywhere. There is, therefore, no exaggerating the significance of the number, both in fact and in appearance.

But increasing doubts are being raised. A recent article in Foreign Affairs raised the possibility that, despite a headline growth figure of 6.9% for 2015, China’s economy may not be growing at all. Examining a range of indicators from VAT rates to steel production volumes, and comparing the results to estimates of the government deficit, produces the startling suggestion that “the real economy in China probably isn’t growing at all. It may even be shrinking.” Doubts about the official figures are not new of course, but the difference between 6.9% and 0.0% is pretty striking nonetheless. And what often goes unsaid is that the official estimates are always at the high end of expectations. As a follow up, Foreign Affairs published a more optimistic account just a few weeks later.

According to this version of events, the ‘Li Keqiang’ index is out of date, reflecting the sort of industrially focussed economy that China was 10 years ago. But even this measure has different methods of calculation, producing results which vary between 2.9% and 5% for 2015. This account, however, also implies the official figures are not very precise estimates. The main argument is that the Chinese economy has changed and now shows significant growth in the service sector, as opposed to the industrial and manufacturing sector.

Read more …

Zika, poisoned water, riots and impeachment: here come the Olympics.

Support For Impeaching Brazil’s President Rises To 68% (Reuters)

A growing majority of Brazilians favor impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff or her resignation, according to a survey released on Saturday by polling firm Datafolha. The poll showed 68% of respondents favor Rousseff’s impeachment by Congress, while 65% think the president should resign. The president’s approval ratings have been hammered by Brazil’s worst recession in decades and its biggest ever corruption probe. Rousseff’s popularity also fell, with 69% of respondents rating her government negatively. The current%age is close to the president’s lowest ratings on record, in August 2015, when 71% of respondents rated the government negatively.

The poll also showed that rejection levels for former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who was named as Rousseff’s chief of staff on Wednesday, rose to a record 57%. That is far higher than the previous high of 40% in September 1994, before his 2003-2010 presidency. A Supreme Court judge suspended Lula’s appointment on Friday, saying it might interfere with an investigation by prosecutors, who have charged him with money laundering and fraud, as part of the probe into political kick back scheme at state oil company Petrobras. Even if Brazilians support Rousseff’s ouster, voters are not enthusiastic about a government led by vice-president Michel Temer. Some 35% of respondents say his government would be “bad” or “terrible”. Datafolha surveyed 2,794 people on March 17 and 18.

Read more …

A Europe-wide idea.

German Right Wing Demands Referendum on EU, Refugee Crisis (Express)

Alternative fur Deutschland, formed in 2013, shocked the German establishment last week with huge gains in state elections. The results have placed it in prime position to challenge Mrs Merkel’s CDU/CSU coalition in next year’s general election. Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Express last night, party leaders shared their envy of Britain’s forthcoming EU referendum on June 23, and confirmed they would be pushing for a similar move in Germany. “I want every member state to decide what is better for them, and the only way we can really do that is to have a referendum, like the UK.” said deputy chairman Beatrix von Storch MEP. “Schengen has collapsed already. Under Schengen Europe’s borders are supposed to be protected. They’re not.

“A referendum is the only way German people can truly express if they want to stay in the EU, if they want to stay in the Euro, if they want to reform border controls to deal with the migrant crisis. They should be given a voice. They must be asked what they want.” Angela Merkel last week refused to back down on her policy not to cap the number of refugees given asylum in Germany. Over the last 12 months, more than 1.1 migrants have crossed Germany’s borders with 300,000 granted asylum. The policy will cost German taxpayers £36bn by 2017, according to a recent report. AfD won an extraordinary 61 seats in 3 regional parliaments last week, coming second with 24% of the votes in Saxony-Anhalt. “We’re still a very young party so it’s a huge success,” said Ms von Storch.

“What’s even more important is the result in Baden-Wuertemberg, where we overtook the SDP, a ruling coalition party, to gain 15% of the votes. “Our success shows that the people are no longer supporting the politics of our Chancellor and all the other parties who back her. “We are the only ones arguing that the only way for Germany to fight the refugee and migrant crisis is to close our borders.”

Read more …

The 2,300 ‘experts’ promised -and needed- for the deal are not available. It’ll take weeks for them to get to the islands. What happens to new arrivals in the meantime?

Greece Delays Sending Refugees Back To Turkey Under EU Deal (AFP)

Greece will not be able to start sending refugees back to Turkey from Sunday, the government said, as the country struggles to implement a key deal aimed at easing Europe’s migrant crisis. Under the agreement clinched between Brussels and Ankara last week, migrants who reach the Greek islands will be deported back to Turkey. For every Syrian returned, the EU will resettle one from a Turkish refugee camp. The deal aims to strangle the main route used by migrants travelling to the EU and discourage people smugglers, but it has faced criticism from rights groups and thousands took to the streets of Europe in protest. Greek premier Alexis Tsipras told his ministers on Saturday afternoon to be ready to begin deporting people the following day, as agreed, but officials said afterwards they needed more time to prepare.

“The agreement to send back new arrivals on the islands should, according to the text, enter into force on March 20,” the government coordinator for migration policy (migration coordination agency) spokesman Giorgos Kyritsis told AFP. “But a plan like this cannot be put in place in only 24 hours.” Around 1,500 people crossed the Aegean to Greece’s islands Friday before the deal was brought in, officials said – more than double the day before and compared with several hundred a day earlier this week. A four-month-old baby drowned when a migrant boat sank off the Turkish coast Saturday hours before the deal came into force, Turkey’s Anatolia agency reported. Hundreds of security and legal experts – 2,300 according to Tsipras – are set to arrive in Greece to help enforce the deal, described as “Herculean” by EC chief Jean-Claude Juncker.

Paris and Berlin have pledged to send 600 police and asylum experts to Greece, according to a joint letter seen by AFP. But Greek officials said they were still waiting for the extra personnel, and without them they would struggle to enforce the new accord. “We still don’t know how the deal will be implemented in practice,” a police source on the island of Lesbos told AFP. “Above all, we are waiting for the staff Europe promised to be able to quickly process asylum applications – translators, lawyers, police officers – because we cannot do it alone.” Realistically, migrants will likely not start being returned to Turkey until April 4, according to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a key backer of the scheme. The numbers are daunting: officials said as of Saturday there were 47,500 migrants in Greece, including 8,200 on the islands and 10,500 massed at the Idomeni camp on the Macedonian border.

Read more …

“If they told me I had to go back, I would drown myself in the sea.”

EU-Turkey Deal: Officials Left In The Dark As Deadline Looms (Tel.)

Europe’s refugee resettlement programme with Turkey appeared to be descending into farce last night as officials on the Greek island of Lesbos reported they had received no instructions from the EU authorities on how to proceed. As the midnight deadline approached for the EU’s new deportation regime with Turkey, organisations and local authorities on Lesbos, where the majority of boats land, said not a single new staff member had arrived and no information had been received. “We don’t know anything,” said Marios Andriotis, advisor to the mayor of Lesbos. “We have received many officers from [the EU border agency] Frontex et cetera over the past year but no one new since Friday. And nobody told us to prepare anything or do anything differently.”

“We have taken note of the deal but we are not privy to details of the implementation,” said Boris Cheshirkov, a spokesman for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission described the controversial plan as last week as a “Herculean task” that will present “the biggest challenge the EU has ever faced”, but there was no sign last night on Lesbos of even a symbolic show of intent. Under the terms of the deal agree last Friday, some 4,000 extra staff have been promised to process all new arriving refugees who will be deported back to Turkey after undergoing fast-track asylum processing. The first deportations are scheduled for April 4. The Greek authorities said yesterday there are now 47,500 migrants in the country, of which 8,200 were on the islands and some 10,500 massed at Idomeni, on the closed border with Macedonia.

NGO workers and volunteers in reception camps on Lesbos, which will serve as detention camps for migrants and refugees waiting to be returned to Turkey, shook their heads when asked about the implementation of the deal. “Like the husband of an unfaithful wife, we will always be the last to know anything about Europe’s deals,” said a UNHCR worker in Kara Tepe camp, where 1,500 Syrians and Iraqis are currently staying. “Really, we have no information.” Refugees in the camp called the idea of being returned “inhumane”, while Amnesty International has called the deal a “historic blow to human rights” raising the prospect of future legal challenges to the deal. The EU insists the deal is lawful.

Those that are now on Lesbos will not be sent back, though with Macedonia’s border still closed, they face an uncertain road ahead. “There is nothing for us in Turkey. No life, no work. I worked bad jobs for 700 lira (£170) a month, I could not put a roof over my family’s head,” said Samir, a teacher from Damascus who had been in the camp for five days. “If they told me I had to go back, I would drown myself in the sea.” In nearby Moria camp hundreds of mainly Pakistani migrants are housed in tents pitched on a muddy field outside the sealed-off EU “hotspot”, the official reception camp. Camp volunteers debated how to break the news of the returns to tomorrow’s arrivals. “They’ll just try again,” said Emma Kriss, an American volunteer. “I don’t think people will give up.”

Read more …

Article by Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona, Giuseppina Nicoli, Mayor of Lampedusa, and Spyros Galinos, Mayor of Athens

Don’t Make Us Ashamed To Be European (3 Mayors)

Two and a half thousand years ago, the islands of the Western Mediterranean were the cradle of the sciences, the arts and democracy. Today, they’re where the survival of Europe is at stake. We find ourselves facing a dilemma: either we assume our responsibility and strengthen the founding principles of the European project or we allow it to sink irreversibly. There is hope. Over recent months we’ve seen thousands of citizens, volunteers and aid workers working to save lives by helping those fleeing from war. We’ve seen local governments with hardly any legal powers carry out herculean tasks to receive refugees, investing the resources that state governments have refused.

Nevertheless, we’ve also observed, with sadness, not just the inability of European states to offer a dignified solution to the humanitarian crisis, but also transit routes being choked off; increasing border controls and repression, and the aberration of a deal with Turkey that contravenes all international law regarding asylum and fundamental rights. Local initiatives stand in stark contrast to the lack of sensitivity demonstrated by European states. While state governments haggle quotas, we cities make contingency and awareness-raising strategies that, with adequate resources, we have a greater capacity to take in refugees than has been recognized. While state governments agree to repressive measures, we municipalities are working in networks to reach deals, like the agreement between Lesbos, Lampedusa and Barcelona that will allow the exchange of knowledge, resources and solidarity between the three cities.

With state governments are incapable of thinking beyond their national context, Barcelona and Athens city halls are working together to put pressure on them to meet their ethical and legal obligations. We, the cities of the Mediterranean, urgently call for other European cities to put an end to the inhumane policies of state governments and to force them to change course in response to the greatest humanitarian crisis since the end of the Second World War. The families that have lost their homes will not rest in pursuit of a place to live in peace, however many obstacles are put in their way. Each new impediment will simply increase the risks to human life and be another incentive for those wishing to profit from people-trafficking. We call for the rejection of the deal with Turkey, which flouts international law and fundamental rights.

Human lives cannot be traded for economic and commercial agreements. The right to asylum is a basic human right that cannot be subject to discounts and bartering. We also call for an end to the criminalization of refugees, and of the aid workers and volunteers collaborating in their reception. Their work should be a source of pride, and be supported and incentivised by public institutions. Events in recent days at the border of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, the xenophobic rallies seen in various European countries, and their subsequent electoral exploitation, are a display of indecency that should embarrass us as European citizens and as human beings.

Read more …